with lyrics from “One, Two Step” by Ciara and Missy Elliot
Baby Phat coat a feather-stuffed
fist around my shoulders, I shuffle
onto the playground ready to
fight. I’ve clawed months of mornings
out of my mother’s calendar to reach
today: my official tryout for the Cool
Black Girls of 4th grade.
Legend has it their gossip turns
to gloss on they lips. Legend has it they can
suspend you with a look. The glitter-clique
has a simple audition: memorize Missy and Ciara’s slick
anthem for us and spit it like I got beef
with the devil himself. My first
lesson in what ferocity means to girls
with our sunset skin. I wouldn’t call it courage,
what nudges my hand-me-down Nikes
anxious across the blacktop. Instead, I name it
what we name the wolf’s instinct to bind to its pack.
This beat is automatic.
Who can call us prey
when we fang like this?
Side-eyes so box-cutter sharp
no white boy has talked to Saniyah in months.
Supersonic, hypnotic Everybody at recess know
she lying about having a knife. But there are some truths
you don’t let off the leash. Like how our mothers send us
to school without popping the bubblegum
dream that any of this will protect us.
That there isn’t a world of things that want us
dead that we can’t even pronounce yet. But I’m here,
in the midst of this black girl blood recital,
hoping to make the cut for safety. Deja don’t
think I got what it takes. Asks why I don’t have
the mandatory crush on Usher. And all I can think
of is the way her eyes catch the light. Here I was
thinking this club, this little swingset secret, was for black girls
that love black girls for life. That wanted to hold
a hand just as soft as theirs and know every good
shade of forever. I tell Deja I would follow her lip gloss
anywhere if she’d let me. But there are certain truths
you don’t let off the leash. Deja suck her teeth.
Tells me her mom said princesses don't
marry each other and I become the swingset beneath her.
Hold her every afternoon until she decides
she’s outgrown that kind of freedom.
It don't take long for my chances
of friendship to rust in the rain between us.
When I tell this story, I always say
I pushed her off the swings.
Childhood & Coming of Age
Intersectionality & Culture
Music & Sports
Rap & Hip Hop
the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession
The repetition of similar vowel sounds that takes place in two or more words in proximity to each other within a line; usually refers to the repetition of internal vowel sounds in words that do not end the same.
a metaphor that extends through several lines or even an entire poem
a compound expression in Old English and Old Norse poetry with metaphorical meaning
a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic
a situation that seems to contradict itself
a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times